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Quirk addressed in state rule that made school admin costs appear much higher than other states

Monday, Oct 21, 2019

* WCIA’s Mark Maxwell last month

A recent report published by the conservative think tank Illinois Policy Institute skewered local school districts for “administrative bloat” and claimed they “waste millions” in taxpayer money on “unnecessary layers of administration.”

However, according to school administrators who submit the expenses, and the State Board of Education that transmits the data to the National Center for Education Statistics, the report is based on misleading data and paints an inaccurate contrast between Illinois and neighboring states.

“Our per-student spending on education is a few thousand dollars higher than the national average, between two and five thousand dollars higher than neighboring states,” Adam Schuster, the Illinois Policy Institute’s Budget and Tax Research Director, said Friday in an interview with WCIA. […]

Dr. Brent Clark, the Executive Director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators, said the overall dollar amount cited by the think tank could be up to 30 percent too high, because unlike other states, Illinois includes risk management expenses in the category of “general administrative costs.”

* WCIA’s Mark Maxwell last week

During Wednesday’s hearing, [State Board of Education] officials proposed a rule change to allow school districts more flexibility in how they code or count their expenses so they can accurately distinguish risk management or liability costs and keep them separate from the administrative expense column. […]

“We took a look at that [Illinois Policy Institute] report and those numbers, and it turns out that Illinois is not reporting data that is comparable to other states,” Mathews confirmed on Wednesday.

“Illinois uses an accounting protocol that we implemented in 2009 that has school districts report anything related to risk management or liability — it’s called the tort fund — into a single line item,” she explained. “That is part of the administrative bucket of costs. The rule that we’re proposing today would help bring us in line and our reporting here in Illinois in line with other states, and that would allow school districts to report different expenses that are related to that category into different lines.”

Mathews did not predict whether or not the total administrative spending would drop to similar totals as nearby states, but said “the accounting would be on par,” under a new rule change, which could take up to six months or longer to implement.

“But this will fix and bring us, make our data comparable to other states,” she said.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

11 Comments
  1. - Jibba - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 1:52 pm:

    ==Illinois is not reporting data that is comparable to other states===

    Garbage in, garbage out, IPI.


  2. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:02 pm:

    The executive director of the Illinois association of school administrators….could be up to 30% high.

    Now thats i guy i can believe.


  3. - Downstate Illinois - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:03 pm:

    It’s still an overhead expense not going to the classroom.


  4. - City Zen - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:16 pm:

    ==Mathews did not predict whether or not the total administrative spending would drop to similar totals as nearby states==

    Elgin School District U-46, Illinois’ largest school district besides CPS, budgeted $442 million for education expenses and $6 million for tort. Guessing other school districts will be similar. So I’m not sure how much this is going to move the needle.


  5. - Chicagonk - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:18 pm:

    If tort-related expenses are driving up admin costs by 30% (which I doubt knowing what school districts spend on insurance), then there should be a discussion about strengthening immunity laws for school districts.


  6. - Some Guy - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:24 pm:

    City Zen, remember this thread? https://capitolfax.com/2019/08/29/todays-number-581-per-pupil/

    I hate to say “I told you so”, but…you know…


  7. - Name Withheld - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 2:29 pm:

    IPI should redo their report and factor in the same expenses from other states - that way we can see whether or not Illinois is truly out of line. If the tort expense is comparable with other states - then I’m not sure there’s really an issue.


  8. - Lucky Pierre - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 3:46 pm:

    Funny how a state where trial lawyers have incredible influence with elected Democrats results in a significantly higher tort fund than other states.


  9. - Jibba - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 4:53 pm:

    ==Funny how a state where trial lawyers have incredible influence with elected Democrats results in a significantly higher tort fund than other states.==

    Source? This article did not say that.


  10. - JS Mill - Monday, Oct 21, 19 @ 6:04 pm:

    Detractors will always detract. Real admin costs average about 5% in Illinois. Well below the 15% target in the privat sector.

    The tort fund spending in PTELL districts like U-46 can be misleading because of the extension caps.

    Admin bloat is an easy shot for the mostly uninformed as school run much higher supervision ratios than the private sector.

    When the IPI says schools waste money it is usually easy red meat for those who want to attack any expense for public sector but they never support the criticism other than comparing to other states. They never have a “why” all the do is shout “too much” just like taxes without ever breaking down or understanding the expenses.


  11. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Oct 22, 19 @ 8:49 am:

    ===Funny how other states exclude the tort fund from the cost of education===

    Fixed it for you LP


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